Slender, cross-eyed, and handsome

The Rev'd George Whitefield

The Rev’d George Whitefield

“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” – George Whitefield (1714-1770)

A preacher’s search for a new church home following retirement is often an exercise in sin, a prolonged, prideful discontent with the state of the churches one visits.

George Whitefield seems to have spent his whole ministry offending and displeasing, although the huge crowds he drew outside the church walls lead me question how offensive or displeasing his sermons were.

 

Perhaps the photograph of this heralded Anglican priest, “the Father of the Great Awakening,” and this PBS documentary description of him illuminate why the preacher who offended and made his hearers displeased with themselves drew the crowds.

“Slender, cross-eyed and handsome, George Whitefield was an Anglican priest and powerful orator with charismatic appeal.”

While others were reading their sermons from prepared manuscripts, George knew that good preaching is different from a public reading at the book store. He memorized his sermons or spoke extemporaneously with gestures considered too dramatic by the more stoic New England preachers. But one suspect there may have been something more to his success. Perhaps his eyes communicated a real human being, someone unable to hide behind being merely slender or handsome, a man whom frail and vulnerable human beings didn’t mind hearing an honest word that offended and or made them displeased with their own posturing games of pretense.

In honor of George Whitefield, a recently retired pretentious Presbyterian preacher worshiped at a nearby Episcopal Church. The word from the pulpit was deliciously real. He didn’t commit the preacher’s sin. He’s going back next Sunday.

 

6 thoughts on “Slender, cross-eyed, and handsome

    • Mona, it was Trinity Episcopal in Excelsior. TWO women priests, one very young and one older. Good preaching. Really fine. But it was the Episcopal liturgy that got me. I felt like I was at St. John’s in Collegeville. So clear. So uncluttered. Clean. Crisp. Scriptural. Eucharistic. The chairs are arranged in classical Anglican style as choir stalls facing each other with the two sides reciting and singing the Psalter alternately. Lovely liturgy. Such integrity and edifying language. And the sermon did move “from preaching to meddling”, as they say. I needed that!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Gordon,
    I too have become one of the Frozen-Chosen. Be well & enjoy the liturgy. Sermons that focus on Justice are rare in any house of worship today. Without justice is love possible? I am increasingly convinced that love is a verb. No other part of speech.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim, It’s the liturgy, isn’t it. For years The Book of Common Prayer has drawn me to itself. Yesterday felt like a homecoming. And the preaching was really fine. BTRW, I thought Presbyterians were the Frozen Chosen. Maybe both are? But there was definitely no ice yesterday.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s